Tag Archives: Hyperlocal Voices

Hyperlocal voices: Mike Rawlins, Pits N Pots (Stoke)

The Hyperlocal Voices series continues with a look at Pits n Pots, a site with its own Wikipedia entry. The site – set up in frustration at the lack of an opeb public forum in the local media – is frequently given as an example of the best of hyperlocal blogging.

Who were the people behind the blog?

Tony Walley & Mike Rawlins, we don’t have interesting ‘job’ titles, we are simply Mike & Tony.

Tony Walley is a company director & broadcaster. Tony has run a successful aluminium stockholding firm in Staffordshire for around 20 years and is politically active. He has worked as a local radio broadcaster mainly covering sport, off and on for around 10 years.

Mike Rawlins is a serial web meddler who had been working in Transport & Logistics for around 18 years. He decided to leave the rat race and to live the dream of being a photographer and a full time serial web meddler 2008.

We have 3 other casual writers who cover various subjects for us.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

The coverage of local politics in the local media at the time was poor to say the least. Commenting on anything that was published in the local media was subject to a policy of censorship rather than moderation. Tony decided that there needed to be a forum where people could discuss local politics in an adult manner without being censored.

When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

Tony Walley and I founded the site in September 2008.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Pits n Pots was one of the first sites in the political scrutiny forum so it is difficult to name other sites as being influencers.

How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

We like to think we have the same ethos as traditional news operations, wanting to provide news and views to interested parties, but without the need to sex up or sensationalise stories.

We don’t carry any significant advertising and don’t need to sell papers.

We research and write our articles because we feel there is a gap in the market.

How are we different? We run very light and are able to react to stories very quickly where the local press can only really publish once a day even on their website. We are able to be far more experimental with new platforms and technologies than the traditional media.

How are we the same? – We are the same in so far as we have a desire to put news in to the public domain.

What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

The article about the Polish Spitfire being used by the BNP was quite a big one that made all the national press.

Our coverage of the EDL rally in Stoke-on-Trent was another key moment. This was the first time we really worked closely with the police. Our YouTube channel was the second most viewed news channel for 2 days after the rally.

What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

Depending on the stories on the day we can get anywhere between 3000 & 5000 unique visitors each day.

Hyperlocal voices: Daniel Ionescu, The Lincolnite

hyperlocal voices - The Lincolnite

The latest in the Hyperlocal Voices series looks at new hyperlocal blog The Lincolnite, launched by recent Lincoln University graduates, who also managed to secure funding for their venture.

Who were the people behind The Lincolnite, and what were their backgrounds?

The people behind The Lincolnite are Daniel Ionescu (Managing Editor), Elizabeth Fish (Associate Editor), and Chris Brandrick (Senior Editor). Daniel and Elizabeth are journalism graduates from the University of Lincoln, while Chris is a Web Technology graduate from the same institution.

Besides our journalism and web technology training, all of us are also freelance writers for several publications, and have run the award-winning student newspaper at the University of Lincoln for two years.

We also have several contributors and freelancers on board.

What made you decide to set up The Lincolnite?

The idea was something I had at the back of my mind for a couple of years. I believe hyperlocal can be one of the strengths of small independent media outlets, and Lincoln was missing such a publication.

The small city (approx. 100,000 people) is served by county-wide media (one newspaper and two radio stations), yet no dedicated local news source existed. So The Lincolnite came to fill a gap in the market in the city — a news website dedicated to covering only Lincoln. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: Will Perrin, Kings Cross Environment

hyperlocal blogger Will Perrin

Will Perrin has spoken widely about his experiences with www.kingscrossenvironment.com, a site he set up four years ago “as a desperate measure to help with local civic activism”. In the latest in the Hyperlocal Voices series, he explains how news comes far down their list of priorities, and the importance of real world networks.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?

I set it up solo in 2006, local campaigner Stephan joined late in 2006 and Sophie shortly thereafter. The three of us write regularly – me a civil servant for most of my time on the site, Sophie an actor, Stephan a retired media executive.

We had all been active in our communities for many years on a range of issues with very different perspectives. There are four or five others who contribute occasionally and a network of 20 or more folk who send us stuff for the site.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

The site was simply a tool to help co-ordinate civic action on the ground. The site was set up in 2006 as a desperate measure to help with local civic activism.

I was totally overwhelmed with reports, documents, minutes of meetings and was generating a lot of photos of broken things on the street. The council had just created a new resident-led committee for me and the burden was going to increase. Also I kept bumping into loads of other people who were active in the community but no one knew what the others were doing. I knew that the internet was a good way of organising information but wasn’t sure how to do it. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: the Worst of Perth

Having already interviewed hyperlocal bloggers in the US and the Netherlands, this week’s Hyperlocal Voices profiles an Australian blogger: The Worst of Perth. Launched 3 years ago to criticise a local newspaper, the blog is approaching a million views this year and has the an impact on the local political scene.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?

Just me. I have a background in stand-up comedy and photography amongst many things, with a bit of dabbling in graphic design and art too.

I used to work for quite a while in video production, (as well as a few occasions as best boy/lighting assistant in a tax write-off kung fu/zombie movie or two). I currently work for Curtin University and am also a student of Mandarin.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

Heh. Well, amusingly from an online journalism point of view, my very first motivation was to label a senior print journo “Australia’s worst journalist”!

Perth has a single daily newspaper, The West Australian, (circ I think about 250 000 daily) which has in many people’s opinion not been best served by being the monopoly daily provider. The paper and its journalists used to be a frequent target of TWOP, but not so much anymore.

The reason for this is at the heart of what’s happening to journalism around the world. Because The West was the only daily paper, in pre-news blog times, people used to be passionate about its faults.

Now no-one really cares how bad it is, because they can get their real news elsewhere. The paper hasn’t got any better, in fact it’s consistently worse, but the difference now is that nobody really cares that much. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: James Rudd, Towcester News

Hyperlocal voices: Towcester News

James Rudd launched his website covering “Towcester and the villages of NN12” after conducting research for a newspaper group. “Their mentality was one of territory and regions,” he explains, and they didn’t listen to his suggestion of a hyperlocal focus – so he went ahead and launched it independently. This is the latest in a series of interviews with hyperlocal publishers.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?

I originally worked in the family business of free distribution newspapers in the late 70s early 80s (after that years in the media side of the pre press world mostly working on magazines and catalogues), so the concept was quite clear in my mind.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

I did some research for a newspaper group on the internet and discovered that their mentality was one of territory and regions. This, however, only suited national and large local companies for advertising. I suggested that they produce hyperlocal websites providing advertising opportunities and content in smaller areas. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: Bart Brouwers, Telegraaf hyperlocal project, Netherlands

Bart Brouwers has been overseeing the establishment of a whole group of hyperlocal sites in the Netherlands with the Telegraaf Media Group. As part of the Hyperlocal Voices series, he explains the background to the project and what they’ve learned so far. Two presentations on the project can be seen above.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?

About a year ago, I came up with the plan for a hyperlocal, hyperpersonal news and data network covering all of the Netherlands. My dream was to give every single Dutchman (we have 16 million & counting…) his own platform for local relevance.

I wanted to roll it out myself and in order to get it financed I made contact with the board of directors of the Telegraaf Media Groep. I already worked for them (as the editor-in-chief of national free newspaper Sp!ts and before that as the editor-in-chief of regional newspaper Dagblad De Limburger), so it felt kind of natural to tell and ask them before I would pitch my idea somewhere else.

What I didn’t know is that TMG was already working on a hyperlocal platform, so after a few talks we decided to combine both plans. So instead of quitting TMG and starting my own company, I’m still an employee.

What made you decide to set up the blogs?

I was convinced local relevance would/will be a strong force in media. The combination of local business and local information (news, data) could easily become the trigger for a fine enterprise. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: Warren Free, Tamworth Blog

Hyperlocal blog: Tamworth Blog

In the latest in the hyperlocal voices series, Tamworth Blog‘s Warren Free talks about how the same frustration with lack of timely local coverage – and the example set by the nearby Lichfield Blog – led him to start publishing last year.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?

I started up the blog after seeing what was happening around the Midlands, primarily in Lichfield and saw the concept would give us something in Tamworth where we could communicate the news as it happened. At the time I was working from home, so in Tamworth the majority of the time.

My background though isn’t one which is littered with journalism experience. My only brush with journalism was during my GCSE’s where I studied Media Studies: we took part in a national newspaper competition, where we came in the top 20. That’s kind of where I left it, until Tamworth Blog was set up in 2009.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

I saw what was happening in Lichfield and suffered the same frustration: local news in Tamworth wasn’t accessible unless you purchased the weekly newspaper. Great if you wanted to find out what happened on Saturday a week later. So I endeavoured to try to provide this service to people in Tamworth. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: Adirondack Almanack / John Warren

hyperlocal voices - Adirondack Almanack, John Warren

Following a nomination via the Online Journalism Blog Facebook group, this Hyperlocal Voices looks at a US blog: the Adirondack Almanack, which covers the rural Adirondack region of upstate New York.

Launched in 2005 out of frustration with the lack of coverage from the mainstream media, the site now boasts 20 contributors, “mostly veteran local writers, journalists, and editors and includes media professionals from local radio, magazines, and newspapers,” says founder John Warren. Here’s the full interview with John:

What made you decide to set up the blog?

The Adirondacks is home to the largest park and the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States (it’s also the largest National Historic Landmark). The park is over 6 million acres in size (that makes it bigger than Vermont, or Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined).

However, about half the land is publicly owned and the rest privately owned, including several villages. That mix of public and private land makes the Park a unique area and fodder for some heated discussions over sustainable development, wilderness, environmental and outdoor recreation issues. I felt strongly that local news media was not fully representing the variety of perspectives on these important issues – many of which are important in other parts of the country as well. Continue reading

Hyperlocal voices: Jon Clarke (Beckenhamtown.us)

hyperlocal site Beckenhamtown.us

Jon Clarke launched the UK hyperlocal site Beckenhamtown.us 2 years ago using the social network builder Ning. He sees the site as differing from traditional publishers in offering everyone a free voice, as well as providing a space to play out local debates around issues such as academy schools and parking zones. Here’s the interview in full:

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds before setting it up?

Me, and no one else, I’ve been in digital media at various ad agencies for over 10 years and therefore am au fait with lots of the ways to create and promote a website.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

The main reason was that I thought Beckenham was not well served with a ‘live’ and ‘community’ based website, there just weren’t any for what is quite a neighbourly area for neighbours to talk and share local things.

When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

The site was set up in August 2008. I’m not a programmer or web designer so I used the Ning.com community website platform that allows one to cut and paste and move various features around to make a good community site. I then used my knowledge to bring in lots of dynamic content, widgets and RSS feeds to pad out the site and bring it alive.

I wanted to use a co.uk address but it was gone so I plumped instead for a .US address. I thought it best represented who the website was for and about – all of US in Beckenham Town. Continue reading

Hyperlocal Voices: Julia Larden (Acocks Green Focus Group)

Hyperlocal voices - Acocks Green Focus Group blog

Today’s Hyperlocal Voices interview is with Julia Larden, chair of the Acocks Green Focus Group blog, which campaigns to make Acocks Green a “better place to live, work and shop”. The group was established in 2004 and the blog followed in 2007. “We are less likely to get confused or get our facts slightly muddled” than professional journalists, says Julia. Here’s the full interview:

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds before setting it up?

That’s a bit complicated. Originally the blog was set up, more as a straight website, by a member who has long since left the area. It was not working very well at that time, and the ex-member was also asking for quite a lot of money to carry it on. I don’t think the member had any particular background in IT – he was in education, although he has set up a few small websites of his own. I had done some work for it, written some materials and supplied some photographs. My son, who runs a small software company, agreed to take the whole thing into his care for a bit.

Things lay dormant and then, when my son had time he simply picked the content up and plonked the whole thing into a WordPress blog – one of the slightly posher ones that you have to pay a bit for, but he has some sort of contract and can get quite a few of these blogs, so the group just pays him a very nominal sum each year.

It then sat there for a bit longer with not very much happening except the occasional comment, and then several members pointed out that it was a valuable resource which we were not using properly.

One of the members had web experience (running her own online teaching company) and started to make it into a far more interesting blog, asking for more materials, creating new pages and adding in bits and pieces and an opinion survey of the area – as a launch gimmick. (We have kept that – it still gets a lot of interest – more since I shifted it to another page, for some reason.) Continue reading